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How to mortise into end grain for loose tenon

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Forum topic by Travis posted 02-15-2020 03:09 PM 631 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Travis

398 posts in 450 days


02-15-2020 03:09 PM

Hi all,

I’m building a trestle table and about to start on the stretcher that runs between the two bases (trestles?). The stretcher is going to be joined to the bases with tusked tenons. I was initially planning on using my table saw and a tenoning jig to make these tenons until I realized that the tenons exceed the capacity of my saw blade. They would probably need to be about 5” long to get through the table legs and have enough exposed for the tusks. I’m under the impression that integral tenons would be stronger than loose tenons, but I can’t think of a good way to do that. I don’t think I’m good enough with a hand saw to precision saw that long of a tenon. I thought about using a flat-bottomed router bit to clear away material from both sides of the stretcher, but in my experience I don’t get a completely flat/smooth surface because of different levels of pressure applied over the many required passes, and at least some of this tenon will be exposed.

So that leaves me with the idea of using a floating tenon. My conundrum is how to do that into the end grain of the stretcher. I’m obviously concerned about splitting the wood. I would think chiseling into the long grain would be the biggest risk. What about going perpendicular (e.g., cutting the fibers) first? Is drilling or plunge-routing safer? Naturally, I would need to figure out how to support the stretcher such that I could drill or route into it…. Is this a fool’s folly?

I am using kiln-dried ash, either 6/4 or 8/4, and looking to make the tenon (and mortise) as thick as possible so I have enough thickness in the tenon for the tusk.

-- The plan is wrong; my finished piece is right.


24 replies so far

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

4855 posts in 2071 days


#1 posted 02-15-2020 03:48 PM

Do you have a bandsaw? You can easily cut the long tenons using the bandsaw. You can cut them a little large and sneak up on the size and square everything up using a shoulder or block plane. Another option is to use a dado blade on your table saw and just make multiple pases with the stretcher laying flat.

If you don’t want to go either of those routes, why not just change from a tusked tenon to a regular mortise and tenon? If you were planning to cut the mortise anyway, you can simply make the tenon shorter and have it fully inclosed in the leg.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

6059 posts in 3177 days


#2 posted 02-15-2020 04:33 PM

I’ve routed mortises into end grain quite a few times and not had problems, but it is a little trickier than routing into face grain. That said, routing into something the length of a stretcher would be just as troublesome as you suspect. I think either suggestions by lazyman would be best, first choice to that band saw. The dado blade would leave you a surface on the cheeks that would need to be cleaned up (a shoulder plane would be really handy, but a chisel would do). Lastly, if you go ahead with loose tenons, I don’t think you will suffer from lack of strength; at least if the fit is good.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

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SMP

1892 posts in 589 days


#3 posted 02-15-2020 04:42 PM

I usually use a ryoba saw on tenons that long. My tenon saw needs sharpening and can only cut about 4” anyways.

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Travis

398 posts in 450 days


#4 posted 02-15-2020 04:43 PM



Do you have a bandsaw? You can easily cut the long tenons using the bandsaw. You can cut them a little large and sneak up on the size and square everything up using a shoulder or block plane. Another option is to use a dado blade on your table saw and just make multiple pases with the stretcher laying flat.

If you don t want to go either of those routes, why not just change from a tusked tenon to a regular mortise and tenon? If you were planning to cut the mortise anyway, you can simply make the tenon shorter and have it fully inclosed in the leg.

- Lazyman

Ah, the bandsaw would be a great choice. Sadly I don’t have one :( I can ask around, I might have a friend that has one.

Sadly, I also don’t have a dado stack and my table saw won’t accept one (I have a jobsite saw). I could just do that many more passes with my regular blade. Would take a while, but probably be safer (because of my familiarity) than trying to turn the stretcher on end and route into the narrow end grain.

My reason for using the tusked tenons is they are more consistent with traditional trestle tables, and I want to be able to break it down for relocation. I could just go with hardware, but that would hurt my pride.

-- The plan is wrong; my finished piece is right.

View Travis's profile

Travis

398 posts in 450 days


#5 posted 02-15-2020 04:48 PM



I ve routed mortises into end grain quite a few times and not had problems, but it is a little trickier than routing into face grain. That said, routing into something the length of a stretcher would be just as troublesome as you suspect
....
Lastly, if you go ahead with loose tenons, I don t think you will suffer from lack of strength; at least if the fit is good.

- Fred Hargis

I would like to learn this, but I can imagine myself destroying the project piece trying to route into end grain, especially on a piece that large. Good to know strength shouldn’t suffer. I read somewhere that the joint can be weak because of thin walls around the tenon, but I thought with a tight fit and strong glue bond, it would act is if it was one piece.

-- The plan is wrong; my finished piece is right.

View Travis's profile

Travis

398 posts in 450 days


#6 posted 02-15-2020 04:50 PM



I usually use a ryoba saw on tenons that long. My tenon saw needs sharpening and can only cut about 4” anyways.

- SMP

First time I’ve heard of a ryoba saw :) I’d seen the Japenese pull saws but never knew the correct term. If I thought I could cut a straight line, I would do this in a heartbeat.

-- The plan is wrong; my finished piece is right.

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

4855 posts in 2071 days


#7 posted 02-15-2020 04:56 PM

You are thinking about this all wrong. This is the perfect excuse to get a new table saw and dado or a bandsaw. Work with me here. ;-)

If you have a router table, you could use a straight bit in a similar way to the dado on the table saw. You need a coping sled along a fence or miter gauge to ensure a square shoulder.

One other option with your original plan on the table saw would be to cut as deep as you can with the table saw and finish with a hand saw. Once you have a nice flat cheek started, it will be easier to keep it straight with the hand saw. Set up layout lines and go slow. A mirror sitting on the bench on the opposite side can help you keep it straight. You can clean and square up with chisels or hand planes. If nothing else, it will be good practice.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

4855 posts in 2071 days


#8 posted 02-15-2020 05:03 PM


I would like to learn this, but I can imagine myself destroying the project piece trying to route into end grain, especially on a piece that large. Good to know strength shouldn t suffer. I read somewhere that the joint can be weak because of thin walls around the tenon, but I thought with a tight fit and strong glue bond, it would act is if it was one piece.

- Travis


If you decide to go with a loose tenon, you might look into making a router mortising jig. That can make the process of plunge routing into end grain much easier and it will help with cutting mortises in side grain too. Make sure that you use an upcut spiral bit for that.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Travis's profile

Travis

398 posts in 450 days


#9 posted 02-15-2020 05:12 PM



You are thinking about this all wrong. This is the perfect excuse to get a new table saw and dado or a bandsaw. Work with me here. ;-)

If you have a router table, you could use a straight bit in a similar way to the dado on the table saw. You need a coping sled along a fence or miter gauge to ensure a square shoulder.

One other option with your original plan on the table saw would be to cut as deep as you can with the table saw and finish with a hand saw. Once you have a nice flat cheek started, it will be easier to keep it straight with the hand saw. Set up layout lines and go slow. A mirror sitting on the bench on the opposite side can help you keep it straight. You can clean and square up with chisels or hand planes. If nothing else, it will be good practice.

- Lazyman

LOL, I would love that!

I like the idea of starting on my table saw and finishing with the hand saw. I would only have to go an additional 1-2”.

-- The plan is wrong; my finished piece is right.

View Robert's profile

Robert

3666 posts in 2164 days


#10 posted 02-15-2020 05:58 PM

What you’re taking about is a through tenon with a wedge right?

It can be done with a handsaw. Clean up and fit with rabbet block plane , chisels, rasps, etc.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View bilyo's profile

bilyo

1041 posts in 1786 days


#11 posted 02-15-2020 08:40 PM

I use the multiple passes on the table saw method frequently. Particularly if I’m doing only one or two. Once you make the shoulder cut, you don’t have to make sure all of the passes are over lapping to remove all the material. It is OK to leave thin “fins” that can be cleaned up later with a chisel. As said above, fine tune it with plane, rasp, sand paper, etc.

Band saw also works well. I like to make the shoulder cuts on the table saw first. I have a better chance of making a square cut.

View SMP's profile

SMP

1892 posts in 589 days


#12 posted 02-15-2020 11:18 PM


I usually use a ryoba saw on tenons that long. My tenon saw needs sharpening and can only cut about 4” anyways.

- SMP

First time I ve heard of a ryoba saw :) I d seen the Japenese pull saws but never knew the correct term. If I thought I could cut a straight line, I would do this in a heartbeat.

- Travis

Its almost impossible to NOT cut a straight line with a Ryoba saw. The blade is like 4 or 5” wide. This does however make it more important to correct the cut early on. However, If you properly make a knife wall on all lines it would take skill to cut it wrong because this wide blade is going to follow the knife wall and self track straight. Imagine of your bandsaw had a 5” blade.

Here’s the one I have. I find I use it a lot more than I thought I would.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B001Y4ZUJW/ref=psdcmw_553220_t2_B002EI2AT0

View AndyJ1s's profile

AndyJ1s

238 posts in 439 days


#13 posted 02-16-2020 01:02 AM

I’d go with a router, preferably in a router table, but an extended router base would probably do.

I would use the table saw to cut the shoulders square and at the right place, and maybe nibble a little wider gap so you don’t have to get close to the shoulders with the router.

Then use the router (with an extended baseplate) to finish the rest.

I assume you want tusk tenons to be able to disassemble the table for packing/moving?

-- Andy - Arlington TX

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

5687 posts in 3035 days


#14 posted 02-16-2020 02:13 AM

A dado on the table saw is the easiest way to make tenons.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Travis's profile

Travis

398 posts in 450 days


#15 posted 02-16-2020 06:10 AM


Its almost impossible to NOT cut a straight line with a Ryoba saw. The blade is like 4 or 5” wide. This does however make it more important to correct the cut early on. However, If you properly make a knife wall on all lines it would take skill to cut it wrong because this wide blade is going to follow the knife wall and self track straight. Imagine of your bandsaw had a 5” blade.

Here’s the one I have. I find I use it a lot more than I thought I would.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B001Y4ZUJW/ref=psdcmw_553220_t2_B002EI2AT0

- SMP

Thanks for the link, I’ll pick one up!

-- The plan is wrong; my finished piece is right.

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